Columns

Toddlers, Teens and Sir Walter Scott

Question: What do you get when you combine the terrible 2s of toddlerhood with the terrifying tenure of teenage years?

Answer: A kitten. Specifically, Sir Walter Scott.

I recently read this quote: “Dogs prepare you for babies, cats prepare you for teenagers,” and boy, is that true. At 4 1/2 months, our tabby is still more toddler than teen, but I swear he just rolled his eyes at me.

Since I sat down to write this column, Walter has knocked every pen off my desk, gotten stuck on top of the filing cabinet and waged war on his own tail.

I just heard a huge crash from Sam’s room, but at this rate I’ll never make deadline, so that investigation will have to wait. (And people say working from home must be so much easier.)

Walter is a whirlwind of energy and enthusiasm. He adores jumping, galloping, wrestling and exploring. Unfortunately, Thor, our middle-aged tabby, is often the focus of Walter’s enthusiasms.

Thor does not play.

He never has. He’s a strictly low-key, lounge-around-the-house lap cat. Unless there’s food involved, then he’s energetic, bordering on obnoxious. He is not amused or entertained by Walter, but the rest of us sure are.

Walter keeps a busy schedule. After our son feeds him an early-morning breakfast, he gallops to our bedroom to ensure I’m awake. Of course, I’m not. So he hops onto my chest and nudges my cheeks with his cold nose, and softly pats my eyes with his paws until I open them.

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Early morning wake up call.

I stagger to the kitchen, grab my coffee and the newspaper and return to bed, where Walter has thoughtfully kept my spot warm.

Here’s the sad part. Walter hates The Spokesman-Review. The minute I shake out the pages, he goes into attack mode. He slinks to the foot of the bed, wiggles his behind and leaps into the newspaper. If he can successfully grab a section from my hands, he’ll proceed to shred it with his tiny sharp teeth and claws.

This makes it difficult to read the paper and dangerous to drink my coffee.

Walter also has animosity for my cellphone. He’ll squirm between my phone and my face and smack it until I put it down.

Perhaps it’s not so much the paper and the phone but that they come between him and my undivided attention.

When he’s received his expected amount of adoration, he’s off to share the love with Thor.

As previously noted, Thor does not want the love.

Toddlers, teens and kittens all suffer from poor impulse control. How else to explain the 2-year-old touching a hot stove, the 13-year-old careening down a steep hill on his skateboard and Walter’s mistaken belief that Thor enjoys being ridden around the house like a pony.

Thor does not enjoy being used as a racehorse with a pint-sized jockey on his back. He has demonstrated his feelings repeatedly by hissing, growling and smacking Walter silly.

To Walter, it’s all part of the fun.

Toddlers, teens and kittens also have inflated beliefs about their own mortality. That’s why toddlers dart into traffic, teens text and drive, and kittens climb things like bookcases and entertainment cabinets. It’s also why parents and cat owners get gray hair.

I know Walter is edging toward his teens because he’s angling for more screen time. He enjoys watching football and soccer on television. Unfortunately, he prefers to be part of the action. He parks himself in front of the screen and tries to intercept the passes.

My husband prefers to watch sports sans kitten. He actually downloaded the Cat Alone app on his tablet so Walter can chase bugs and flies on the screen while Derek watches the game in peace.

There’s another troubling sign that Walter’s teen years are near. On Saturday morning, he was even more manic than usual. He could not seem to settle down.

Then Derek discovered a small baggie behind the couch.

It was Walter’s stash.

Somehow, he’d gotten the catnip out of the cupboard, punctured the plastic and had himself a party. We’ve locked up the catnip and are hoping to avoid an intervention.

For all his boundless energy, Walter is extremely affectionate and a world champion cuddler. In fact, right now he’s sprawled across my desk, snoozing. Unfortunately he’s lying on my arms, which makes typing difficult, but he just sighed and made that adorable kitty chirp, so I’m not inclined to dislodge him.

Sweet moments like these are why we love our toddlers, our teens and our kittens.

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Classic case of writer’s block.

Columns

Front Porch: Feline’s perspective: He’s fluffy, not fat

Editor’s note: Cindy Hval is on vacation this week. Her intern, Thor, the junior cat in the Hval household is filling in for this week’s column. Cindy will return next week because she’s out of vacation days – and cats.

I’m happy to have this chance to correct the lies that have been printed about me. If I had money I’d get a lawyer and sue but I don’t, so I’ll set things straight in this column.

First: I’m not fat. That rumor started when I was taken to a horrible place called “The Vet.” They did unspeakable things to me and then the lady told Mama, “He needs to lose weight.”

I guess the car still smells like my reaction.

You’d vomit, too, if you were poked, prodded and insulted. As to my other reaction, well cars should come with litter boxes for heaven’s sake! I didn’t know if I’d get out there alive and stress makes my bowels overactive.

Food is important to me, I admit it. I love the food that gets put in my bowl! And the food that’s in Milo’s bowl, and the food that’s in the kitchen, and the food that’s in the dining room, and the food that lurks outside. That kind of food you have to catch and I’m not allowed outside. More on that later.

Before The Vet said I was fat, Mama used to give me treats. Milo says cats aren’t supposed to sit up and beg. He says it’s “conduct unbecoming to felines.” What does he know? Milo only eats the food in his bowl and popcorn. That’s it. Milo is weird and has no taste buds.

All I know is, I used to just sit at the treat cupboard and look at Mama. Then she would say, “Does Thor want a treat? Is Thor a good boy?” Those aren’t even hard questions! And I was like, “DUDE! Yes, I want a treat. Of course, I’m a good boy!” And I’d stand up and take the treat from her fingers.

It was a good life till that nasty vet ruined it. I wish they’d put me in HER car.

Milo is also embarrassed that I roll over for Alex. I’m like, come on, it’s not that hard. Alex says, “Roll over Thor! Roll over!” in this cute high-pitched voice and I roll over. I mean, I’m already lying down. What’s the harm? Milo says I should have my cat card revoked. I don’t even think there is such a thing.

Sometimes, if no one’s looking, Mama still gives me treats. She’s my favorite person because when I was a baby she saw me in a cage with my brothers and she reached in and picked me up.

We’d been abandoned – all of us. So, I know there are bad humans out there – worse than those who say you’re fat. There are people who would leave a litter of kittens beside the road. But Mama picked me up and held me under her chin and I was so happy I purred as loud as I could, so she took me home.

I’m still a little confused about my name, though. Most people call me Thor, but Zack calls me Thorla the Hutt, Stevener, Stinky and Dopey. Mama calls me Baby Kitty Boy, so I’m pretty sure that’s my real name.

Contrary to what’s been reported, I have other interests besides food – water for one. Every morning after breakfast I sit by Mama’s bed and wait for her to get up. She lets me drink out of the bathroom sink. It’s the best water in the world!

Then she turns on the shower. I used to sit on the edge of the tub to make sure she didn’t drown, but once I lost my balance and fell in. That wasn’t fun. Mama screamed and I jumped out and ran into the bathroom door. I had water in my eyes and didn’t know it was closed.

Now, I just wait on her towel and keep it warm. It’s my job. My other job is to sit on her shoes so she can’t go anywhere. She’s always going places and I worry she won’t come back, so I sit on her shoes. It’s hard work. She’s got a lot of shoes and I’m never sure which ones she’ll wear.

My current hobbies include napping, bird-watching and squirrel surveillance – which leads me to my true passion – the great outdoors! I want to go outside more than anything. I know I’m not fat because I can be out the back door before anyone notices I’m gone. I’m stealthy and I’m fast.

I want to eat grass and the bugs in the grass. I want to snack on some birds or squirrels, but I’m never allowed. You want to know why? It’s because of The Vet, that’s why. She says, “Indoor cats are healthier and live longer than outdoor cats.” And my family believed her!

Once when I was little no one noticed I got out, and it snowed. I got scared and hid under Dad’s old car. It was stinky and I got oil on my fur. When they finally found me I was too scared to come out, so Dad got a broom and pushed me out. Then he gave me a bath in the kitchen sink. It was awful! I like water but not all over me.

When I sneak outside I ignore everyone when they call me – except Dad. When he yells my name I run as fast as I can inside. I remember the broom. I remember the bath. Trust me you don’t mess with a guy who’s not afraid to give a cat a bath. Plus he growls. I didn’t even know humans could growl.

So, that’s my story. I was abandoned but I got rescued. I’m not fat, I’m just fluffy. And aside from The Vet trying to ruin my life, I’m one contented cat.

This Front Porch column originally appeared in The Spokesman Review July 3, 2014.